Too often I hear website owners say things like “now that I’ve built my website I need to get some SEO.” (actual quote)
I suppose this is a natural thing to think after working hard to build a website, only to realize that the site doesn’t have any visitors. It must be comforting to think that you can generate traffic by pouring a magic sauce on your website.
Here’s the problem with this way of thinking: SEO is a verb, not a noun. It’s not something you pour over your website when it’s finished. The best form of SEO is an ongoing commitment to publishing great original content that’s relevant to your visitor.
With that in mind, here’s some advice for anyone who’s fallen into the trap of thinking of SEO like a condiment:
You only need one SEO plugin. Using two or more SEO plugins will not get your website better rankings. In fact, it just might do the opposite. I know you want both relish and mustard on your hot dog, but SEO is not a condiment! If you aren’t already using an SEO plugin for WordPress, install the Yoast plugin. If you are using an SEO plugin, please don’t install another one until you de-activate the first one. If you choose to switch to the Yoast plugin be sure to import your settings using the Yoast Import & Export feature.
Don’t use your theme’s SEO settings! This is another form of redundant SEO and one that comes with some risks. SEO features are a great marketing tool for theme designers, but the truth is you don’t want your content optimization tied together with your theme. What happens to all those meta descriptions and SEO titles you entered into your theme’s SEO box after you change your theme? Lost forever! When you use an SEO plugin, your optimized metadata remains active even after the theme changes.
Start using Google Analytics. If you’re prone to think of SEO like a condiment, there’s a good chance you think of analytics like it’s broccoli. You know it’s good for you, but you’d rather not consume all those healthy numbers.
If you haven’t already set up a Google Analytics account, do that now (as in immediately). If you are already using Google Analytics, start paying attention to your data. Google Analytics is the single best way to monitor the progress you’re making in building an audience for your website. Among other things Google Analytics tells you how many visitors you have, where they came from, what they looked at, and how long they stayed on your site.
Start using Google Webmaster tools. A while back Google stopped including search keyword information in Google Analytics. Now Google Webmaster Tools is the best way to figure out what search terms bring people to your website. There are plenty of other advantages to using Webmaster Tools besides the keyword data, making it a must for any website owner.
Don’t fall for SEO scams. Anyone who promises to get your website on the first page of Google search results (without purchasing ad space from Google) is a lying to you. There’s simply no way to guarantee organic search rankings. If you receive an email from someone named Stella Fair (a common and well-known SEO spammer), delete it immediately. Likewise, avoid the temptation to use cheap “link building” services on Fiverr and oDesk. These services are the SEO equivalent of high cholesterol junk food. Use them, and you will almost certainly get your website banned from Google search results (the SEO equivalent of having a major coronary failure).
Start publishing great original content on a regular schedule. This takes us right back to the beginning. A perfectly optimized theme combined with Yoast’s SEO plugin won’t help your search rankings if you aren’t publishing quality original content that’s relevant to your audience’s needs and desires. In the end, that’s the single best thing you can do to improve your website’s organic search rankings.